This project intro has been a long time coming – three years to be precise. Three years of indecision. Three years of trying to make sense of it all.
It began when I had an epiphany to save a friend’s old 964 Porsche Carrera 2 Tiptronic. He’d owned it for the better part of 20 years, but the onset of issues meant it was used less and less until it was eventually parked up outside. It sat there for years.
After posting so many random pictures of abandoned and semi-abandoned cars around Tokyo, this was my chance to actually do something and save the 964. Sure, it hadn’t exactly been left to rot like some of my other abandoned car finds, but it was deteriorating, so now was the time to step in. I envisioned it restored as a perfect Tokyo daily driver – compact, oozing character and with a slush-box to alleviate the pain of negotiating stop-and-go city traffic.
It was spring 2018 when a deal was done and the keys were mine. I thought I could drive the car home, but the engine wouldn’t fire and it wasn’t a flat battery. A flatbed transporter was required and the 964 was hauled off to a shop to be assessed.
A few months later it was ‘fixed’. You’ll shortly hear why I’ve used inverted commas, but nevertheless, this time I was able to start the Porsche and drive it away.
I was initially happy, but during the short 5km drive home, I noticed blue smoke emitting from the rear of the car.
This continued on for a few weeks. At first it wasn’t bad and only happened when I was sitting in traffic. Then it started doing it all the time, and the oil stains on the driveway increased in size.
After a few weeks of this, I knew I couldn’t keep driving it. So, with a looming house move and general life events taking priority, I parked the car at friend’s secure lockup outside the city. At the time I wasn’t sure how long it would remain there, but it turned out to be almost two years. If you follow me on Instagram, this explains why you saw the 964 and then didn’t for a long time.It All Starts Here
Fast forward to last winter when I was finally in a position to re-rescue the Porsche, and once and for all (hopefully) fix the engine issues. Before that though, I wanted to start off my ‘Project 964′ coverage with a baseline shoot.
In between bringing it home for the first time and putting it in storage, I never washed the car, so how you see it here is exactly how I purchased it.
So what are we looking at exactly? The little yellow bird is a late-model 964 Carrera 2 with 170,000km (just over 100,000mi) on the clock. When it was sold new in 1993 it was dark blue, but around 12 years ago the former owner had it painted Speed Yellow – his favorite Porsche color. The car is otherwise completely stock; nothing has been upgraded or modified, which means it still rides on very tired factory shocks and 16-inch wheels.
This is an official Mizawa Porsche dealer car, which is a sought after thing in Japan. It’s a big deal to have that little sticker on the back window. Once the car is cleaned up and looks presentable, I think I’ll drop by the dealership it was maintained at for most of its life and see if I can get a fresh one.
For the last couple of years I’ve thought hard about the direction to take with this project, but for the time being my focus is on getting it back into a functional and reliable state. Even with tired bushes, shocks and top mounts, the car handles well, so I’m excited about what we can do in this department to really refine things.
While from a distance the 964 looks pretty tidy – something helped in part by the bright paint – up close are the telltale signs of a car that’s sat outside for an extended period of time. This is no more obvious than out back, where the taillights and center garnish have not only faded, but have a web of cracks running through them. The upper rubber taillight seals have also perished, which means water is getting into the housings.
I’m pretty amazed that the active rear spoiler still works – although somewhat sporadically. It goes up and down at speed when it feels like it, and sometimes it gets stuck in the ‘up’ position. There’s a ton of dirt and grime underneath, and you might be able to see that the flexible section that folds closed when the spoiler is lowered is broken, so this will need replacing.
The brakes will also need some work. I’m aware that 964s are known for having a very wooden-feeling brake pedal and little-to-no feedback and progression, but thing aren’t being helped here with heavily-worn discs and pads. The calipers could obviously do with a refresh too.
However, the first thing that needs to be addressed is the engine. The 3.6L flat-six needs work, and in a future post I will show you just what the issue is. I’m confident it will slowly but surely return to good health.
Moving inside, with this originally being a dark blue car it’s no surprise that the cabin features blue carpeting and dark blue leather seats and trim. I don’t mind that the car has been repainted, as Speed Yellow is far more exciting color than boring dark blue, and the interior is still a good match to the exterior.
Again, from a distance all looks good, but there are lots of things in need of attention.
First up, the old DVD navigation unit and analogue TV tuner mounted under the glovebox needs to be binned. Same goes for all of the associated wiring stuffed inside the dash.
I’ve already disposed of the LCD screen that was attached to this metal mount, but now the mount itself needs to be removed. Initially I was happy it wasn’t screwed on, but as the adhesive holding it in place just won’t budge, I’m now scared that removing it cleanly – and without ruining the plastic beneath – won’t be possible. If anyone has any good advice for how to get this thing off as cleanly (and painlessly) as possible, be sure to let me know in the comments.
For how retro the Kenwood head unit is, I’ll be swapping this out for something that allows me to stream music wirelessly. If you’re wondering why the ashtray is open, that’s because it won’t stay closed, so I need to take a closer look at the mechanism and get that fixed too.
Then there is this thing, the HVAC unit, which doesn’t work at all.
The ETC (electronic toll collection) card device also needs to be relocated into the glovebox, simply because I don’t like seeing tacked-on stuff like this in the cabin.
The seats are nice and comfortable and it’s amazing that every switch still works. First up, I’ll be seeing how much better I can get them to look with a proper clean and a long overdue moisturize. The leather is very dry, but at least it’s not showing much wear and tear.
I will definitely be replacing the steering wheel for something more fitting of the overall image I’m going for; I’m pretty sure the airbag won’t work after 28 years anyway.
The JDM safety warning labels on the driver’s side door pocket lid/arm rest are still there, if a tad worn. I quite like the layout of the doors as there is so much storage available, but I’m not ruling out simple RS-style door cards with the iconic colored straps in place of the handles.
There is mold in places and a ton of dirt that has accumulated, so a deep interior clean will need to happen.
Having been left outside for so long the dash top is scarred with cracks and splits. I’ve been looking into dash replacement costs, and let’s just say I don’t want to think about it for a while…
Finally, I need to properly remove what’s left of some old tint film, which at the moment makes it almost impossible to see out the rear of the car.
Up front there isn’t much to see. I just have to give the frunk a thorough clean out.Initial Thoughts
So what’s it like to drive? As I mentioned, it’s a compact car, which makes it pleasure to navigate around narrow Tokyo back streets. If I had a choice, I would have gone with a manual 964, but truth be told, the Tiptronic transmission is actually pretty decent for its vintage. It could do with a 5th gear, but it does make full use of the ample spread of torque developed by the flat-six engine. What’s interesting to me is how it only ever really selects 1st gear when you request a prompt getaway from the lights.
I blame Singer for getting me here. I drove one of their cars years ago, and after that I knew I’d somehow get myself into a 964.
There isn’t an end goal, I’m just taking it step by step and attempting to address the car’s biggest issues one at a time until I get it to a decent place. Then I can start thinking about a 3.8L rebuild and manual G50 swap…
I haven’t even driven the car over 1,000 km yet, but it’s been an experience already.
There’s something about these cars that newer cars just can’t match; an underlying character that makes even the most mundane of drives fun. It’s also fun bumping into other people enjoying these older 911s, and in Tokyo there are quite a few.Setting The Theme
Before I go, I want to show you my first aftermarket pick-up for Project 964.
I reached out to the guys at Formawerx, and they shipped me out one of their Ignition 911 billet keys. Machined from a block of 303 stainless steel and sporting the Porsche insignia, it’s a real thing of beauty. It also sets a theme for the build.
It’s a reminder of what I am trying to achieve here. A restoration – one that keeps the essence of the underlying car alive, but at the same time adds some form and function.
Let’s see how we get on…
Dino Dalle Carbonare